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The St. Louis Cardinals' Jaime Garcia experience, five starts in

Jaime Garcia's shoulder still works, but when will we be able to trust that it still works?


Five starts in, Jaime Garcia is having exactly the kind of 2013 season someone who had nothing to look at but the back of his baseball card might have predicted. It's the one your vague impressions of Jaime Garcia as a pitcher could generate without his stats, too—a few not-quite dominating performances, a seeming inability to get into or out of the sixth inning as often as a pitcher of his caliber usually does, etc. He's even got a higher ERA on the road!

Basically, it partakes of every Jaime Garcia stereotype except one: His shoulder is still working. His velocity is steady from 2012, his peripherals are trending toward their usual levels, and we haven't yet had to worry about how much longer he'll be doing all those Jaime Garcia things.

Baseball lasts so long that we get tired of talking about storylines like this one well before we actually have the information we need to make a judgment about them. Is Garcia a time bomb? Most of us had decided one way or another before he even started throwing this year.

This is the frustrating thing about an injury prone pitcher, and players coming off injury more generally: There's only one test they can pass immediately—Does he look like himself in his first couple of starts back?—and so many more questions that are only answered after they're not worth asking.

Jaime Garcia's arm worked in Spring Training, and works now, and that's legitimately great; it means his career isn't over, and that he's got a perfectly reasonable shot at throwing 200 innings and making us look ridiculous. But it doesn't allay any of the other concerns that come with being injury prone, or having arm problems; every start is still the potential site of a sudden loss of control, or decline in velocity, or final, pained fastball.

I've been relatively sure all year that Jaime Garcia would exceed the Cardinals fanbase's incredibly low expectations for him. Now that I'm pretty sure he's already done that, I don't know where he'll go from here.